Rosemary Davidson, REHIS Course Presenter, discusses how training has had to adapt to be online and also talks about her contact tracing role with NHS.

1.         Describe you work before the pandemic? 

My work before the pandemic had two main strands, the first being delivery and organisation of REHIS food hygiene training at all four levels from Introduction to Food Hygiene up to Advanced Diploma for our partnership business with Christine Fraser. This was a mixture of face-to-face delivery to a mixture of mainly Tayside clients and elearning to many varied clients spread across Scotland.

My second role was as a public health nutrition adviser (PT) with NHS Tayside. This varied role encompassed developing and delivering REHIS nutrition and other training to staff and community workers, developing and reviewing nutrition resources and working with staff involved with the Health Promoting Health Service, Healthy Living Award and Healthcare Retail Standard. I was also involved with work looking at improving the diet of the community through cooking classes and introduction of Menucal to local businesses. 

2.         What have you been doing since the pandemic started? 

Since pandemic, face-to-face training has not taken place and I feel organisations may not be able to go back to this method of delivery for some time (if at all). Many have had to adapt in lots of ways and elearning for training may be the way forward for many. Initially businesses had other priorities and are still finding it very difficult, but some have started to consider elearning recently.

My work within the NHS and partner agencies practically stopped as projects and training were put on hold. Staff were redeployed or had other priorities. Virtual meetings became the norm.

As a member of Public Health staff we were asked to work with the department on NHS Scotland Test & Protect to carry out contact tracing. Many hours of training were completed before we could start taking calls from index cases and communicating with contacts. In August a new and improved case management system (CMS) platform was launched and further online training was required on this new version.  

3.         What are/were the challenges? 

Initially we were not in demand for contact tracing and it was difficult to build up experience. When the new CMS was launched we tried to gain experience where possible to fulfil our new role. As demand increased I became fully involved with contact tracing for all of my hours, plus extra shifts when required. It is a demanding but interesting role as I’ve been working with many new staff from different areas of the NHS and other agencies.  New skills have been developed both for the investigative, reporting and people skills required for contact tracing but also communication as supervising other contact tracers, providing support for new staff and use of the ever evolving case management system and contact tracing developments.

4.         Do you think any of these changes will last beyond the pandemic period? 

I think elearning will increase in popularity and hopefully training will become a priority again. Virtual meetings and conferences will be here to stay. 

Hopefully, as new contact tracing staff are employed I may be able to resume at least some of my previous NHS nutrition remit, but I have enjoyed this temporary change of role.